Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Sunday night, according to multiple reports, in what would be the first known meeting between the two countries’ top leaders.
Israeli media initially reported the covert meeting before Education Minister Yoav Galant confirmed it in a radio interview.
“The fact that the meeting took place and was made public — even if it was in only a semiofficial way — is something of great importance,” Galant said in an interview with GLZ Radio, calling the meeting “something our ancestors dreamed about.”
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, however, said no such meeting occurred.
I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo. No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.— فيصل بن فرحان (@FaisalbinFarhan) November 23, 2020
The meeting would be the latest sign of thawing relations between Israel and Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, largely brokered by the U.S. The moves have caused alarm among Palestinian activists, who say they undermine an agreement among Arab nations to boycott the country in solidarity.
Saudi Arabia’s wealth, military position and religious significance within Islam would make it the most significant Middle Eastern nation yet to establish formal relations, but there is no sign yet of any such agreement, The New York Times noted.
Reports in Israeli media said Netanyahu and the crown prince discussed Iran, among other topics. Further isolating Tehran, a mutual enemy, has been a point of agreement between Israel and several of the Arab countries with which it has established relations.
The crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, was initially hailed as a reformer due to his relaxation of some of the kingdom’s strict laws. However, the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey largely derailed his international goodwill amid widespread reports it was done on the prince's orders.
While Saudi Arabia’s King Salman remains a supporter of the boycott of Israel, the crown prince reportedly prefers to move on from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and considers an alliance against Iran a matter of more pressing importance, The Wall Street Journal reported.
— Updated at 8:28 a.m.